Today's climate and energy headlines:
- Germany to back EU-wide target for net zero emissions
- World’s top 500 companies set to miss Paris climate goals
- Global heating to inflict more droughts on Africa as well as floods
- Pope warns oil bosses of climate threat
- China 2018 thermal power investment lowest since 2004: association
- Tackling the climate crisis should be Britain’s national crusade
- Where the climate change action is
- Arctic amplification response to individual climate drivers
Several news outlets are reporting that Germany has joined the coalition of EU countries who want to introduce an EU-wide target to cut net greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2050. The FT, which says it has seen the leaked documents, writes: “Berlin’s backing increases the likelihood that national leaders will agree to an EU-wide 2050 goal at a gathering in Brussels next week. A lack of German support had been a sticking point for the adoption of tougher EU emissions target which eight member states — Belgium, Denmark, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and Sweden — committed to in May. There were signs that chancellor Angela Merkel was preparing to shift her position after she endorsed a German carbon-neutral target last month. An EU-wide agreement would give the bloc a concrete commitment to take to the UN climate conference in September, strengthening its claim to be a leader on the issue and increasing pressure on China and other countries to do more. It also underlines how the need to reduce emissions to combat climate change has moved up the political agenda.” EurActiv, which also says it has seen the leaked document, explains that with Germany, Greece, Italy and Slovakia all adding their names, it “increas[es] the chances that a deal will be struck at an EU summit later this week”. Politico also has the story. BBC News says that “tackling climate change is among the key challenges for EU leaders, meeting on Thursday to set the bloc’s priorities for the next five years”, adding that the “green agenda has become mainstream, after months of student-led #fridaysforfuture
The FT has published new analysis which “assesses how the world’s top 500 companies by market capitalisation are preparing for a low carbon world, by measuring their current emissions and the number of low-carbon patents they hold”. It explains that the analysis “maps out each company’s current behaviour, and correlates it with the level of global warming it would imply by the end of the century, if every company in the world made similar choices”. The modelling was undertaken for the FT by a “boutique climate analysis group” called Carbon Delta. The FT’s Leslie Hook adds: “The result shows huge differences in how various sectors are preparing for a decarbonised world. Fields such as utilities, oil and gas, and mining are among those that appear to be doing the least, according to this analysis, while the tech sector and healthcare seem to be doing the most. But almost all of them have some way to go — the analysis shows that only 15% are in line with the goals of the Paris climate accord, which seeks to limit global warming to well below 2C.”
Separately, the Guardian reports that a “$10tn (£7.9tn) investor alliance has accused more than 700 companies, including Amazon, Tesco and ExxonMobil, of failing to reveal the full extent of their impact on the climate crisis, water shortages and deforestation…Campaign platform CDP has brought together a record number of investors, including banking giants HSBC and Investec, to demand companies reveal data on the environmental cost of how they do business.”
The Observer reports on new research showing that “global heating could bring many more bouts of severe drought as well as increased flooding to Africa than previously forecast”. It explains: “New research says the continent will experience many extreme outbreaks of intense rainfall over the next 80 years. These could trigger devastating floods, storms and disruption of farming. In addition, these events are likely to be interspersed with more crippling droughts during the growing season and these could also damage crop and food production.” The research has been conducted by the Met Office and the University of Leeds. “Essentially we have found that both ends of Africa’s weather extremes will get more severe,” says Elizabeth Kendon of the Met Office’s Hadley Centre, as quoted by the Observer. “The wet extreme will get worse, but also the appearance of dry spells during the growing season will also get more severe.”
Separately, the Financial Times says that “Northern India is in the midst of a long and deadly heatwave that began more than two weeks ago, an occurrence that is predicted to become more severe due to climate change”. It adds: “Six of the hottest years ever recorded in India have taken place this century…Economists believe these more frequent and prolonged heatwaves, which take a significant economic toll in terms of heat-related deaths and lost labour productivity, will be one of the most visible near-term results of global warming. Big cities with dense populations in already hot climates, such as India’s sprawling capital, will be among the worst affected.”
Meanwhile, the Guardian and Reuters both report that France is set to declare a “natural disaster” after rain and hail storms lashed a swathe of the south-east on Saturday, devastating crops. Elsewhere, Bloomberg has an article on how “climate change is coming” for France’s $3.6bn cognac business.
There is widespread coverage of the Pope’s meeting at the Vatican last Friday with executives of oil companies, where he told them that climate change threatens the future of the “human family”. BBC News says: “Pope Francis said a radical energy transition is needed to save what he called ‘our common home’. The head of BP agreed that the world must find urgent solutions to environmental problems – but said all must play a part. The Pope warned him and other bosses: ‘Civilisation requires energy, but energy use must not destroy civilisation.’ The oil bosses were brought to the Vatican alongside fund managers who invest in their stocks. The companies represented were believed to include Eni, Exxon, Total, Repsol, BP, Sinopec, ConocoPhillips, Equinor, and Chevron.” The Guardian says it is the Pope’s “strongest and most direct intervention yet on the climate crisis”, noting that he told the meeting: “Future generations stand to inherit a greatly spoiled world. Our children and grandchildren should not have to pay the cost of our generation’s irresponsibility… Indeed, as is becoming increasingly clear, young people are calling for a change.” Reuters say the Pope “appealed to climate change deniers to listen to science”, adding: “He criticised those who, like Trump, doubt the science that shows human activity is causing the earth to heat up. ‘For too long we have collectively failed to listen to the fruits of scientific analysis, and doomsday predictions can no longer be met with irony or disdain,’ Francis said. Discussion of climate change and energy transition must be rooted in ‘the best scientific research available today’.” Associated Press also covers the Vatican meeting.
China’s total investment in thermal power construction last year fell to its lowest level since 2004, reports Reuters. This is according to data from an official industry group called the China Electricity Council (CEC), which represents power generators, plant builders and equipment manufacturers. CEC says that investment in new thermal power plants reached 78.6bn yuan ($11.35bn) in 2018, down 8.3% on the year and amounting to 28% of total spending in the sector. Reuters adds: “Total power investment fell 3.9% on the year to 278.7bn yuan. Spending on hydropower construction rose 12.7% to 70bn yuan, while nuclear investment inched down 1.6% to 44.7bn yuan. However, policies aimed at curbing overcapacity and tackling a subsidy payment shortfall meant that solar power investment plummeted 27.4% to 20.7bn yuan in 2018, while wind power also dropped 5.2% to 64.6bn yuan.” Separately, Reuters reports that China is planning to build a “pilot small-scale nuclear reactor that could replace coal or gas to heat towns and cities in its colder northern regions”. Meanwhile, the Observer has a feature focusing on the new BP annual energy review data (covered in depth last week by Carbon Brief), which shows that “fossil fuels are by no means in terminal decline”.
There is continuing reaction to the UK’s new climate goal, announced last week by Theresa May, that emissions should be “net zero” by 2050. (Read Carbon Brief’s in-depth Q&A.) In the FT, Camilla Cavendish, who used to head the Downing Street policy unit under David Cameron, says the goal is “a great cause to fight for, and one that could unite a country crumpled by Brexit”. She adds: “The combination of growing public concern and the falling cost of renewable energy may be bringing us to a tipping point…This post-fossil fuel world is closer than some think, and investments are made with 30, 40 and 50-year horizons. Developing countries are seeking advice on how to decarbonise, rather than invest in fossil fuel infrastructure…Britain should not fear getting out in front. We are in a global race to decarbonise, and it is only going in one direction…The west exports aspirations, not just emissions. If we can change our own habits, that might have a more powerful effect than we can yet imagine.” In the Guardian, Susanna Rustin writes: “It is extremely difficult to see a safe way through the next few decades that does not involve a drastic reorientation of global priorities, towards wildlife and away from consumption. Meeting the UK’s 2050 net-zero target, for example, will require planting almost 3bn trees. We can expect air quality to improve as we shift to electric cars. Some people are already discovering a new relationship with food. If the world is to come together as we need it to, human values will have to assert themselves over the forces of capital.” Ivana Kottasová writing for CNN says the goal is “extremely ambitious – the roadblocks massive”, adding: “Drastic restrictions on almost every aspect of people’s lives, from the cars they drive, the way they heat their homes, to the fridges they buy – even the food stored in them.” Umair Irfan writing for Voxsays that the UK has committed itself to the “most aggressive climate target in the world”, adding: “This is a much bigger shift than, say, Costa Rica, another country that’s committed to carbon neutrality…It’s also not clear on who is required to pay for the transition to a cleaner economy.” In the Hill, Bob Ward of LSE’s Grantham Institute says that the UK’s move “highlights how quickly the US is falling behind in the global transition to clean, smart and modern economies”. In an interview in the New Statesman, Sir Ed Davey, the former climate and energy secretary of state who is currently running to be leader of the Liberal Democrats, says that “the climate change emergency is so great that if there are things that we need to do together to make sure we address that, we have to go the extra mile”. The Sunday Telegraph gives space to Matt Ridley, the climate sceptic who declares an “indirect” income from coal mining taking place on his inherited estate, who writes that “a way must be found to use oil and gas, but capture their CO2 emissions – and have the industry do something more than signal its regret; to be part of the solution, rather than most of the problem”. In the Financial Times, Jonathan Ford says that “net zero requires a wartime level of national mobilisation, and wars demand renunciation from people”. He adds: “Rather than glossing over the challenges, responsible politicians would at least debate them first.” Meanwhile, Climate Home News has launched a tracker of the countries committing to a net-zero climate goal.
An editorial in the New York Times says that “nuclear power is hugely important” when it comes to tackling climate change. It adds: “Nearly every major authority on climate change, including the International Energy Agency, has said that carbon-free nuclear energy must be part of the solution if, as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has warned, the world is to be on a clean energy diet by midcentury and escape the worst consequences of global warming. But nuclear plants are in grave danger in this country, and it’s up to the [US] states to save them…The prospects for national action are sure to improve if any Democrat wins the presidency, and without national action America cannot hope to be the world leader on climate change, as it aspired to be at the end of Mr. Obama’s tenure.”
A new study assesses how different climate drivers affect Arctic amplification – defined as the ratio between Arctic and the global average temperature change. In the “Precipitation Driver Response Model Intercomparison Project”, researchers used 10 global climate models to analyse five different climate drivers separately – including CO2, methane, black carbon, sulphates, and energy coming from the sun. The findings show that the annual average Arctic amplification at the surface is similar between climate drivers, ranging from 1.9 to 2.3. The study also finds that “for all drivers, the precipitation change per degree global temperature change is positive in the Arctic, with a seasonality following that of the Arctic amplification”.
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